Discover Halloween’s haunting serenade of death metal, where the sinister becomes strangely beautiful.
As Halloween creeps upon us, people flock to their favourite horror movies featuring psychotic slashers and insatiable monsters. But what if I told you that there’s music centred around these themes that we love to delve into during the spooky season?
Drumroll, please… Death metal!
In the late 80s, pioneered by bands like Death, Cannibal Corpse and Entombed, the death metal genre challenged the norms of mainstream music, pushing boundaries not only through their exploration of themes related to violence, death and misanthropy but also by delivering their message through ferocious guitar solos and guttural vocals, like the bellowing of mythical monsters from the abyss, that truly defined the genre.
Death metal captures the human fascination with death, providing an artistic outlet to confront mortality. Like horror movies, it offers an adrenaline rush and a controlled space to engage with fear and dark aspects of life.
Chuck Schuldiner, Death band founder and ardent horror movie enthusiast, holds a pivotal place in the evolution of death metal. Their early albums, like Scream Bloody Gore, took inspiration from horror movies with track 9, “Evil Dead,” paying homage to the 1981 American supernatural horror film of the same name.
While death metal lyrics often delve into and draw inspiration from gruesome themes, they are not necessarily devoid of meaning. Many bands use these themes as metaphors for deeper societal or personal issues.
Schuldiner’s band often explored the fragility of human existence and the consequences of choice in their songs. They proved that the genre is a lot more than just screams and blast beats (despite what your parents may say). It’s a deep dive into the human psyche, and the intense tunes and dark lyrics make you think about the mysteries of life and where our faith lies afterwards.
For example, the song “Flesh and the Power it Holds” from their 1998 album The Sound of Perseverance encapsulates this depth of introspection. With lines like, “When you live the flesh, it’s the beginning of the end… / Passion is a poison laced with pleasure bitter-sweet / One of many faces that hides deep beneath,” they explore the transient nature of life, the paradox of passionate emotions and the multifaceted layers of human existence, evoking feelings of contemplation and introspection.
It doesn’t necessarily seek to romanticize or trivialize death but rather offers a controlled, thought-provoking platform for individuals to navigate their emotions and reflections on the subject. Marcus Gavita, a first-year journalism student at Concordia, expressed, “Death metal typically goes very fast…It allows me to express myself, to get anger or energy out, but without doing it myself. It’s a kind of release.”
One of the intriguing aspects is the paradoxical beauty within its brutality. Beneath the surface lies a technically demanding realm. Death metal guitar solos evoke a visceral sensation, as if the strings themselves are conduits of unrestrained energy, paired with relentless drumming against unconventional time signatures that twist and twirl to create a whirlwind of musical mayhem that showcases the incredible skill of the musicians. It’s as though the chaos and aggression are meticulously sculpted to create a sinister, symphonic beauty.
To put it in perspective, Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” cruises at a tempo of 96 beats per minute. Meanwhile, in the same time frame, Cannibal Corpse’s drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz pummels his drum kit to smithereens during the opening of “Hammer Smashed Face” at a whopping 192 beats per minute.
Death metal’s connection to Halloween isn’t inherent, yet it makes for a fitting seasonal soundtrack, its themes and atmosphere aligning with the spooky holiday. As the haunting night approaches, it reminds us that exploring life’s darker facets can be captivating. Beyond its reputation for violence and gore, it offers diverse interpretations and sources of enjoyment, from the sheer musical intensity to its intricate layers. Embrace the eerie melodies and let your Halloween be filled with the enchantment of death metal.